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Seas Of Erin > Tir-Nan-Og > Love the Flaming Arrows
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 02:21 AM
When Marcello returned to his own camp, his demeanor had changed entirely from what it had been when he had faced Auberon. He looked tired, dismal, his shoulders stooped and his expression haggard, and his feet shuffled as he made his way back into the Countess' tent and over to her bedside, dropping to his knees before her.
"Niabheara," he said softly, clasping his hands before him before he removed his gloves and rubbed at his fingers to warn them. "It's me. Marcello. Can you hear me?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 02:33 AM
In the course of a few days, disease and surgery had take their toll. The girl's skin had gone an unhealthy, nearly translucent dark yellow, and her chest made a ominous creak, like a poorly sealed bellows, when she inhaled. But her eyes opened at his voice, although she had to swallow twice before her tongue was damp enough to allow for speech. Her eyes, though the pupils were still huge and wet-looking from amaranthe, focused on him in recognition. "I hear you fine." She tried to sit up. "Where . . . where were you?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 02:37 AM
Marcello, with much trepidation, put a hand to her cheek. "To speak with Auberon," he told her. "I'm sorry. I'm a terrible Queensman. You should pick someone else. Here," he said, worriedly, reaching for her shoulders. "Don't hurt yourself, love. You're not well."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 02:43 AM
She tried to twist her head away from his hand, but was not near quick enough for anything so elaborate as evasion. "Don't touch me!" she rasped with surprising harshness. "You and Meg both, you're both going to--"
She broke out coughing, finally managing to gasp out, "Get sick."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 02:49 AM
"No," Marcello answered firmly, and reached for her again, trying to place a hand on her back to stroke it soothingly. "We won't. You were poisoned, Niabheara. By Titania. Like in the Imbolc play, like what happens to Gwynyfyr. That's why I've gone to Auberon." His voice was soft with care. "To get the antidote. If he's true to his word, I can make you well now."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 02:57 AM
Her eyes actually seemed to sink deeper into her skull when he said 'Gwynyfyr'. She shook her head despite herself. "Meg said--" Again she coughed, albeit more delicately, as if she feared rattling something loose. She tried to carry on speaking but couldn't catch enough wind for it. When it finally subsided, she gave up and lay back again. "I don't want to die. I don't. I just want to go home. I want for all of this to be over so that we can go home."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 03:09 AM
Marcello eased the girl back down, keeping his hands on her shoulders. "I want the same thing," he agreed. "I don't want you to die, either." He bit his lip. "It's a blessing just to see you awake."
"Here," he said, pulling off his cloak and lay it out the ground, and dropped down himself to lean on one elbow beside her. "I can't catch your illness. Even if this doesn't work, I won't get sick from you. The worst that can happen is that you stay ill, and then..." He shook his head. "Then we decide what can be done."
He swallowed, then reached over to stroke a thumb very lightly along the curve of her cheek. "Right now, I'm going to kiss you and pray that Auberon was true to his word. All right?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 03:17 AM
Just now she felt so putrid, rotten from the inside out like an apple, that she wasn't sure she wanted to be touched at all, much less kissed. Illness and drugs made self-consciousness a bare niggling concern. Right now she knew only that she was cold, and she pulled herself closer against him. Under different circumstances it might have been called snuggling. "It's all right. It's fine." She paused for breath. "I ne'er really minded, you know."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 03:26 AM
Marcello lay down entirely, to free his leaning-arm and wrap both arms around the girl, hugging her with enough care that it was clear he was mindful of her current state. "I would hope that if you minded, you wouldn't have allowed it," he told her affectionately, tilting his head down to rest his forehead against hers. "I'm asking because I can't imagine wanting to be kissed if I were as sick as you are. I'd be happy just to hold you," he assured her. "But I think it's how the cure's meant to work. Ready?" he asked, but he wasn't waiting for a response. He tipped his head further, kissing her first between the eyes, then on the nose, and then, softly on the mouth, his lips lingering on hers, as if he wasn't certain whether there was a duration necessary to the cure.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 03:36 AM
Niabheara let out a tiny sigh, too small to bother drawing back, and snaked an arm under his. She closed her eyes, trying as best she could to note any difference--if her head stopped rushing, or if the rusty nails caught in her chest seemed to suddenly vanish. Nothing immediate occurred. She shuddered and relaxed all the same; however it worked, cure or not, it felt good to be held, it felt good to . . . and then she realised she was murmuring all that aloud. She blinked at him in surprise. "Um. Sorry."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 03:40 AM
Marcello reached up, stroking the girl's hair, and kissed her forehead, pulling her more tightly to him. "There's nothing to apologize for," he assured her lovingly, keeping her close to him. "I'll hold you for as long as you want to be held. If you want anything else from me, all you've got to do is say so. There's no change?" he asked her softly, worriedly.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 03:48 AM
"I can't tell." Her voice sounded a bit less rough, but then, she spoke very, very softly. "Please, I need to know . . . what's going on out there? I heard people passing in armour, and horses."
It was hard to keep her thoughts in a straight line for any length of time, fight though she might. She slumped her forehead against him, her hand tangling into his shirt. The shirt struck her as both familiar and out-of-place at the same time, but she couldn't pinpoint just why. "Don't go. I don't want to be alone if this happens."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 04:02 AM
"I won't," Marcello promised. For a moment, he wondered if he should kick off his boots, but then he gave it a miss, and he reached down to pull her blankets up around both of them, more for her benefit that for his, and nuzzled his face into her hair, taking a long, deep breath, as if he were inhaling it. "I love you. I won't leave you."
He swallowed then. "You were asleep for a long time. I...Moira's missing. Titania's done something to her, and I don't know what, but Moira went missing when she went to the College, and Titania's been disguised as Moira since the Queensman showed. She...she gave me a flask of liquor which poisoned me, and in turn poisoned you, and I'm sorry," he said, his voice going weak. "I'm so, so sorry, cara mia. Then you became sick. It was my fault. Then...the trul all left. All but Mortoch and his people. The rest vanished. And the battle started. Gearoid is here; he's been helping me, but the Lady Oisin is using this as a personal battle-ground to fight over her grudges against your father. And Titania tried to sneak into your tent, and we realized-- well, I thought she was Puck, not Titania, but I swung an iron skillet at her head, and Morgana made it so she couldn't leave, and the next thing I knew..." He went cold, cold enough that the girl might feel it. "I cut her ear off," he said weakly. "I...we have her imprisoned still, but I...I told Auberon I'd release her if he cured you. I'm sorry; I know it wasn't the right thing to do, but I couldn't...he threatened to come after us himself if I didn't agree, and I can't bear any more fighting. I can't bear what she's done to you. I just-- I don't know what to do next."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 04:21 AM
"The College. They'll know. They'll need to know. Send someone there." There was something important for her to say but it kept drifting just out of reach; she couldn't focus on more than one scetchy detail at time, and the sudden deluge of information overwhelmed her. "My father killed her brother." She buried her face over his heart, her fingers knotting harder into the fabric of his shirt. "Is this what it comes to? Is everything going to come back 'round to him?" And then, in a low, dull voice, barely audible, she muttered half in Tuathailli, half in Common, "They should have killed him. It would have been kinder. It would have been better than letting him grow enough to cause this much pain."
She coughed again, but it seemed more experimental, as if she was trying to see if something more would come of it. It hurt, a deep wrenching far down in the bottom of her chest, but she was able to stop. She couldn't tell if it was better or not; it had happened that way before. "You don't have to love me. Just don't leave. Not right now."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 04:34 AM
Marcello cupped the back of her head in his hand, bending down to kiss her hair. "I couldn't stop loving you," he told her softly. "You are the dearest thing I know. I'm not going anywhere. Is it--" He watched her worriedly, as if he were expecting the blood to come at any moment. "If this doesn't work, we'll try something else. There's alway something else. I--"
And he frowned, shutting his eyes. "Don't-- don't fret over it now. As soon as someone comes to check on you, I'll have them send someone to the College. What happens out there, we'll see it end, one way or another. I promise."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 04:52 AM
The Queen crossed her mind, and her stomach sank: worry this time, rather than illness. "We are in so much trouble," she said in a rather lacklustre tone that would have nearly been humorous under better circumstances. "She mustn't go back. It won't end, if she goes back. She'll ne'er keep a bargain, and I don't trust Auberon either."
Again, she had a line of logic there but couldn't keep track of it. In the end, she gave it up, and watched, rather solemnly, as he closed his eyes. "You are going to sleep." She let go his shirt long enough to poke a finger in between the lacings at his collar, running it up the side of his neck before she thrust herself against him, burrowing her head into his side like a cat. "I'm cold, is all. I don't know if . . . I do love thee. I don't know if it's what you want."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 05:06 AM
"I'm not going to sleep," he assured her, his eyes still shut, the corners of his mouth tugging down at her pronouncement, as if he'd just received a prison sentence. "Not knowing is better than knowing for certain that you don't," he answered quietly, but sounding very much like he was trying to convince himself. "And I would not ask you to lie."
He yielded to her with each touch, shifting to accommodate her, cradling her where he could. "I'm still yours," he murmured, and then he grimaced, shaking his head, and took a deep breath. "And I know about the Queen," he agreed. "I do not think we can free her. But Auberon would come for us either way, and it is better that he come for us with you cured than come for us with you dead. And I hoped you would agree. I-- I do not know if it is even worth trying to negotiate with her directly; she leaves a trail of death wherever she goes. I-- at first he did not specify how he wanted her back, I intended to deliver her dead. But I also-- I do not know how to kill her. I--" He gritted his teeth. "I am no Queensman. I tried, but he is right. I am too direct. Even when I lie I am too direct. I do not know how to play your g-mes, and they all think it is fair to deceive me. I should have been able to back him into a corner. If this had been Italy, I would have found a way."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 05:15 AM
"He killed her once. There must be some way. She's of woman born, much as any of us, not a goddess. Someone must know how he did it."
She leaned up high enough to kiss him on the cheek, too groggy to remember not to, now that she felt safe again. "You're a fine enough Queensman," she said, "but I am no one's queen. Don't become like us."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 05:22 AM
"But she came back," Marcello pointed out. "We have to do it so she can't come back. And I...there's still Auberon to contend with, then. I have never...Niabheara, taking that knife to her," he said quietly. "I was more terrified after than I was before."
His expression, even with his eyes shut, became a troubled one. "I want to take you away from here," he said, his tone pleading as he held her close. "I know you won't allow me to, but I want to, so badly. I want to go somewhere where this will never trouble you again. You're not like them, not really. You don't have to be. You're a good person. And you would be an excellent Queen. Better than that monster."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 05:47 AM
"Someone must know," she insisted, nearly growling. It prompted another wave of coughing, her shoulders wracking under his hands. It was a while before she quieted enough to go on. "I told you once. I'm a coward. I'm scared of being hurt. Sometimes . . . I must pretend I'm not, just so that no one can see what a coward I am. I would run, if I could. I don't want to die like this. I don't care. Not even for Cnoch-na-Niall." The little speech, on top of the coughing, took the breath out of her. She sagged against his chest. "I don't want anyone to know. You mustn't tell anyone."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 05:54 AM
And Marcello opened his eyes, reaching with one hand to try to soothe the wracking from her coughs, and with the other to tilt her head up, just enough to gaze at her. "That's not cowardly," he told her softly. "You'll do no good to any of these people dead. You'll do no good to me, nor your sister. There's nothing stopping you from coming back when you're well. Moira made me promise to take you away if I could, cara. She doesn't think it's cowardly. Morgana doesn't think it's cowardly. I don't think it's cowardly."
He kissed her forehead gently. "Not even Morgana? She'd help, you know. She would. She loves you."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 06:07 AM
"Morgana would have to go too. There's nothing to stop them now from striking at Ebhot--Oireachteigh couldn't stop them. They'd do it if they thought it would hurt me. I told you that." No, she had told Jochy that. No difference. "There's nowhere to go. I won't go north," she added as fiercely as if he had suggested it. "That's what she wants. She expects it. There'd be no coming back from the north."
She let him tip her face upward. Disentangling her finger from his laces, she ran it over the side of his face to the temple. "You do know there is no Italy to run away to here?" she said thickly. "Otherwise I might go."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 06:18 AM
"Let me speak with Morgana," Marcello answered softly, nuzzling her hand with his forehead. "I got here from Italy; I can find a way to take you back. Or we'll think of a place. If they expect us in the north, we go south. We go, and we get as far from here as we can. Your mother's on her way, she has a ship...or would you prefer she not be part of this? I've done enough travelling under cover. I'll take you and Morgana on my own if I must."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 06:26 AM
"You don't know Mother. It might not be worth whate'er she asks." At the same time she wondered if anything her mother might ask could be worse than what Titania was sure to supply. She decided that she did not particularly want an answer to that question. She was too tired to think it through--that, or anything else, at present. She played with the edges of his hair. It was a subtle change, but she realised that she was tired. Not feverish, not drugged. Only very, very tired. "My head's stopped swimming. I don't know if that means anything."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 06:34 AM
Marcello smiled affectionately at the girl. "It might mean you're getting better. Or it might mean the amaranthe is wearing off," he told her softly, reaching up to push her hair back away from her face. "I don't know the geography here; I think we're best off deciding this with Morgana." He knew the elder sister would have to provide for her family, as well, and that worried him more.
Instead, he gave her a considering look, as if trying to determine her welfare. "Any other changes?" he asked her. "Do you need anything?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 03:58 PM
"I can't tell. I'm only cold. I've been cold all day." Which was true as far as she knew it: she did not remember very much of the day save for in brief moments of coming close to consciousness and, almost immediately, spiralling back into sleep. If she shut her eyes now, she would fall asleep again. "Meg spoke about you. I forget everything she said. She told me you had been very brave, but I don't remember what it is she said you had done. But I already knew you would be brave if you had to be, only--don't be foolish, too."
She wanted to go on speaking, and she did not want to take the risk of waking to find him gone again.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 05:08 PM
"I can get you another blanket," Marcello offered. "Do you mind if I sit up for a moment so I can take my boots off? They're muddy and damp."
Never mind that nearly every bit of him was at least a bit damp.
He stroked her back softly. "I'm cold, too," he admitted. "I-- I' m trying not to be foolish. The hardest thing is trying to act according to your wishes when you're not there to tell me what they would be."
He realized now that his eyes were damp, too. "I attacked Titania. I don't think I was brave; I was sick with fear. I just...stopped thinking and started acting. I threw up right after," he admitted sheepishly. "Morgana was brave, too. She helped me subdue her. And she wasn't sick at all."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 07:17 PM
She shook her head. "Don't mind." This did, however, involve her letting go of him, a fact that did not occur for several seconds. Her arm slid away and she rolled over onto her back with her hand cupped under her ribs. "Morgana's always like that. She's only e'er frightened for other people."
Niabheara shifted to the side to allow him more room. The move provoked another small run of coughing, smaller, closer to spluttering. It was too soon to admit that she was afraid that Auberon had lied. So much amaranthe had left her unable to feel much of anything aside from warmth and pressure; there was no way to tell if anything internal felt different than it had before.
She laid a hand on his back. "No one said you had to be Queensman. There is nothing for you to be Queensman of. It's a bad job. I don't want you--" She broke off again to turn her head and cough. "You've been used by enough people. I won't be the next one."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 07:26 PM
Marcello winced at her coughs, but let her go, sitting up to remove his boots, and then as many damp outer garments as he could, rolling up his trousers so that the muddiest, dampest bits were hidden and not rubbing against his legs.
'You're not using me," he assured her. "Everything I've done has been my own choice. I decided Queensman had more weight to it than I would be able to demand if I simply walked up to His Majesty. Otherwise, what am I? Some idiot Tallfolk whom no one would listen to."
Then he took a circle around the tent, gathering all the blankets he could, and got a dipperful of water for himself before he got one for her, and carried it, carefully back to her. "Drink," he said quietly. "When Morgana comes, I'll send her for something for you to eat. Does the coughing feel any different?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 07:51 PM
Niabheara watched him move about. "Queensman or no, it hardly matters now. They haven't been much for respecting anyone's rank. Or relation. You should've killed her. One ear isn't half enough for what she's done."
She rolled onto her elbow and pushed herself high enough to drink without spilling. "I can't tell if it feels different," she admitted. "I'm not bleeding. I think." She touched her mouth, and came back with only water. She lay down again, sounding--for once--irritated rather than distant: "I've got enough amaranthe in me to treat every wounded man on the field; I can't feel anything." To demonstrate, she pinched her own arm viciously, twisting skin between her fingers. "See? Nothing. What did they do to me?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 08:02 PM
"I couldn't kill her," Marcello said softly, taking the dipper back before he lay back down beside her and arranged the blankets around them both so that they were well-nested-in. "For one, I was fearful we'd never get a cure for you if that happened. For another, I wasn't sure anything I did to her would make her stay dead. Morgana's got her hidden for now."
He gave Niabheara a long look, a bit awkward for a moment, as if he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do with himself now, whether he was supposed to put his arms back around her without her say-so. "Not bleeding is a good sign," he assured her. "Morgana will know better than I do. If you...if you really want to know everything, I'll tell you. Just...tell me what you want to know," he offered, leaning forward to kiss her cheek. "You do feel that?" he asked her softly.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 08:17 PM
The grim spectre of death being a good motivator for cutting down the hesitation between decision and action, Niabheara glomped onto him. "Aye, of course I felt that. What is it with you and kissing? Are you under some curse?" She was drowsing after all, despite herself. She dragged him to her side to prevent his escaping while she slept.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 08:27 PM
And Marcello wrapped his arms back protectively around the girl, smiling softly. "You said I was terrible at it," he informed her. "I've got to improve for your sake. Would you rather I prod at you with my chin?" he teased, re-adjusting himself to accommodate her. He tilted his head down, trying to bring it closer to her level. "If you could let up on my ribs a little?" he asked her hopefully. "I'm not going to leave you again, I promise."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Dec 3 2007, 08:34 PM
She slacked off to a more comfortable level of throttling. "When did I say that? You remember; you remember everything." Eyes by now fully shut, she raised her head on instinct and kissed him. "If I'm still ill we're going to spread this about," she warned drowsily, and finally gave him his arms back. "Just 'til I fall asleep?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Dec 3 2007, 08:41 PM
"The other night, when you were delirious," Marcello answered. "I was hoping it was the drugs."
He licked his lips experimentally, as if trying to tell from the taste of her whether she was sick, and slipped one arm rather more comfortably back around her. "If you're still sick, I don't care anymore," he told her. "I want to be here with you. I'll stay until you want me to go, sleeping or not. And if I need to go, I'll make sure you have Morgana with you first."
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